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Welfare states and quality of later life: distributions and predictions in a comparative perspective

Abstract

Demographic transitions are a driver of social change and societal ageing influences the resources and chances in life of different age groups. As a contribution to the debate on (potential) results of the transformation of social security in ageing societies, the impact of social security systems on distributions of quality of life in later life is discussed. Quality of life is introduced as a helpful concept to answer the paper’s research questions: How are levels of quality of life in later life and the variability of objective and subjective quality of life indicators related to welfare state arrangements? What is the relevance of social structure indicators for this variability, how is it related to old age security, and what can be learned for the perspectives of current debates on equity and social security reforms? In a comparative perspective employing Esping-Andersen’s welfare regime typology, three basic hypotheses are thoroughly tested: the ‘hypothesis of (relative) levels’, the ‘distribution hypothesis’ and the ‘social structure hypothesis’. The analyses apply micro data from ten countries. While most of them are included in the first wave of the international comparative research project SHARE, data for England come from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Descriptive analyses as well as multivariate models prove an interconnection between welfare state systems and quality of life indicators but not all three hypotheses can be fully confirmed. Social policy implications of these findings are discussed and a basis for extended future analyses is outlined.

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Notes

  1. The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th framework programme (project QLK6-CT-2001- 00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life). Additional funding came from the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, Y1-AG-4553-01 and OGHA 04-064). Data collection for wave 1 was nationally funded in Austria (through the Austrian Science Foundation, FWF), Belgium (through the Belgian Science Policy Office), France (through CNAM, CNAV, COR, Drees, Dares, Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations et le Commissariat Général du Plan) and Switzerland (through BBW/OFES/UFES. The SHARE data collection in Israel was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging (R21 AG025169), by the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (G.I·F.), and by the National Insurance Institute of Israel. Further support by the European Commission through the 6th framework program (projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT- 2006-062193, and COMPARE, CIT5-CT-2005-028857) is gratefully acknowledged. For methodological details see Börsch-Supan and Jürges (2005).

  2. SHARE is intended to be complimentary to the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Hence, both studies deliver equivalent data.

  3. Exceptions are a) the difference in income variation between the social-democratic and the liberal regime and b) the effects for subjective needs with the exception the difference between the conservative-corporatist and Mediterranean cluster.

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Correspondence to Andreas Motel-Klingebiel.

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Contribution to a special edition of the European Journal of Ageing, edited by Alan Walker and Ariela Lowenstein.

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Motel-Klingebiel, A., Romeu Gordo, L. & Betzin, J. Welfare states and quality of later life: distributions and predictions in a comparative perspective. Eur J Ageing 6, 67–78 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-009-0112-1

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Keywords

  • Later life
  • Social gerontology
  • Social inequality
  • Quality of life
  • International comparisons